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Open source to formalise European railway specifications

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Part of the specifications of the European Rail Traffic Management System are being reworked into an open source project. Called ERTMS Formal Specs, the project aims to create a standard for creating ERTMS computer applications on board of trains. "It will contribute to making European railway systems more interoperable", says Stanislas Pinte, CEO of ERTMS Solutions, the company behind the open source project.

Making the project available as open source, should help convince potential customers use the tools for their on-board train ERTMS applications.

The company has been working on the open source programming toolkit since 2011. "We're about halfway done", says CEO Pinte. Their funding runs out at the end of 2015, "but we expect to have it completed ready by then." ERTMS Formal Specs is funded by the European Commission. The company will continue to invest in the project beyond the pubic funding, Pinte says.

Their starting point is "the sizeable ERTMS specification", which is available only in English. The section on on-board systems is 500 pages long, describes 39 different messages, lists 47 packets and introduces 176 variables. "That is why it is extremely difficult to check the match between implementation and requirements. Nevertheless, such checks are critical for ensuring the safety of the train control system."

Developing these tools as open source is new for the train industry, says Stanislas Pinte. "We're working with traditional companies developing railway solutions. They're used to expect team leaders, that tell their developers what to write. Open source development requires a meritocratic approach."

The CEO is convinced the approach will win the hearts and minds of the train industry. "We don't yet have a customer for our open source product, but we're talking to several that are really interested. It will take time, but our approach, open source, helps to create industry-wide acceptance."

 

More information:

ERTMS Formalspecs
ERTMS Formalspecs on Github
Open- ETCS
European Railway Agency